We are celebrating the birth of another grandson. Tomorrow, G’d willing, is his brit. We were supposed to spend Shabbat with the parents and our mechutanim helping with the two older children (3 years and 1-1/2 years old) and getting acquainted with this newest, blessed addition.
Unfortunately, my husband and I had to ‘gracefully decline’ as I was hospitalized shortly after the birth with a high fever and what turned out to be a ‘simple’ urinary tract infection. Although, I’ve learned that with multiple myeloma — cancer of the blood — very few health encounters are simple.
This is a second marriage for my husband and I. We were both widowed. When I met my husband he had three grown children, but only one — his youngest — was married. I had six grown children and no one was married. Since then, we’ve married off all the children and have been blessed with one birth after another. Sometimes people ask me how many grandchildren we have, and I avoid answering.
Recently, as I lay in the hospital battling this newest infection, I asked myself why I dislike answering this seemingly ordinary question. There are numerous superstitions about revealing the number of grandchildren one has, one of them being to avoid inviting the ‘evil eye.’ A friend recently told us that there’s an old Hebrew expression which roughly translates into “don’t count the cash while the register is still open.” I like that saying a lot, because a few months ago we celebrated one birth on my husband’s side and are expecting yet another one on my side any day now.
But it occurred to me that the reason I don’t talk about the number of grandchildren has nothing to do with notions of ‘evil eyes’ or ‘open cash registers’ but rather because of my illness.
When I was first diagnosed with multiple myeloma in March 2012 we were preparing for my oldest daughter’s wedding — the fifth of my children to get married. I had decided to delay induction therapy treatments until after her June wedding, as I was fearful that I might be too ill to stand beside her under the chupa. That was an unwise decision, as I ended up coughing my way through the whole evening and three days later was hospitalized with pneumonia. Most of what I remember from the wedding was grasping for air. And, instead of going on a honeymoon, the newly marrieds visited me in the hospital.
Numbers have a finiteness to them. But joy, celebration, gratitude — all of these feelings that I experience with my gorgeous, growing, healthy family, watching the young mothers nurse, the cousins deepening their friendships, our small and large family gatherings, participating in the achievements of these young children and their parents. These are moments of infiniteness. Each one to be savored. Each one impossible to count or measure. Now, as the multiple myeloma has relapsed, this infiniteness fills the spaces of my heart completely, staving off the fear.